Shadows of Time
A Ranma ½ / Sailor Moon crossover fanfic by jimra
I don't claim these characters…well, most of them anyway…all of them so far. I have enough trouble with taxes; I don't need to get in trouble with copyright law.
Chapter Two: Where Past Meets Present
Taking the train in from Juuban to Furinkan every morning was something of a pain, but Ukyou didn't think it too much a burden. Almost every day since she had moved there at the behest of her husband, the okonomiyaki chef had made the trip, only recently hiring another chef to take over the Monday through Thursday operation of her restaurant. After eighteen year, even she sometimes wondered why she still kept Ucchan's open, but somewhere deep within her heart, she just couldn't let go of her past, even now, with a husband and teenage daughter.
As Ukyou made her way from the Furinkan station toward her restaurant, the brown-haired woman reflected on the past. Ranma had come to her about a month before his wedding to her sometime friend, Tendo Akane, with a surprise: apparently he had finally beaten the location of her father's yattai out of his father. The pigtailed boy had taken a weekend trip to the cave where the worthless panda had hidden the mobile food cart, and over the course of two weeks, Ranma had repaired it, replacing any equipment that was damage beyond repair. As such, Ranma had presented a pristine, if somewhat antiquated, yattai to her, pleading with her to let the engagement drop in favor of friendship.
At the time, Ukyou had flown off the handle, trying to bludgeon her pigtailed love with her battle spatula, but has he dodged and tried to speak soothingly to her, Ukyou's rage melted into depression. She had burst into tears, paradoxically throwing herself into the arms of the man who had just caused her heart to ache. Being held like that, just for a moment, was like he had chosen her, and for the briefest of heartbeats, she allowed that feeling to swell in her heart. Then it was gone, and the brown-haired chef was left only feeling the light embrace of a friend, stroking her back and trying, in vain, to make her feel less hurt.
Once Ukyou had calmed, she asked Ranma for a week to think about it, and Ranma had answered that she could have as much time as necessary. Leaving the food cart (and astounding Ukyou, who had thought it to be a bribe to get her to release the engagement), the dark-haired martial artist walked away, leaving a contemplative Ukyou behind.
Over the course of that week, Ukyou spoke to both Konatsu and her father about the situation, and while her kunoichi waiter/waitress certainly had ulterior motives, he gave some sound advice in the matter. Her father, on the other hand, was furious, insisting that she discharge the honor debt by either marrying Ranma or killing both him and his father. If she failed to do one or the other before she was eighteen, her name would be stricken from the Kuonji Clan register. Horrified by his tone, Ukyou had slammed the phone onto its cradle, both angry and appalled by the man's audacity when Ranma was trying to find an honorable way out of the agreement. Konatsu was again helpful in quelling her emotions, and the Kuonji patriarch's reaction to Ranma's olive branch galvanized Ukyou's decision on the matter.
When Ranma returned a week after presenting Ukyou with he yattai, the restaurateur made a single additional requirement, in addition to the food cart, for allowing the agreement to be made null and void, and a week later, after a conversation with Saotome Nodoka, Ukyou no longer cared if her father removed her from the Kuonji Clan; she was already a Saotome. Ranma had only asked that she keep the adoption a secret until after he had dealt with the amazon problem; he didn't want Cologne to get any ideas about getting his new sister engaged to a male Joketsuzoku warrior. He later extended the secrecy, once the wizened elder agreed to drop Shampoo's claim, until he and Akane had performed the Joketsu adoption ritual.
Although, at the time, she didn't think her feelings for her now-brother would ever change, Ukyou agreed to be Akane's maid of honor at their wedding, and Akane had been Akari's maid of honor at Ryoga's wedding shortly thereafter. She even managed to avoid sounding resentful at the reception.
Ukyou had been so looking forward to revealing to all that she was now Ranma's sister, but that wasn't to be. He and Akane had disappeared during their honeymoon; after, according to the information Nabiki later acquired.
The heartbreak was even more devastating than she would have expected from such an event. Ranma was her best friend, recent love interest, and current brother, and the year after the couple's disappearance, Ukyou had felt like a black hole had replaced her heart. Barely able to function, it was a testament to her friendships with the remaining Tendo sisters that she even graduated high school and entered a local college. It was during this despondent time that Konatsu fell away from her, leaving a note telling her that he had been called away by an uncle to return to his father's clan.
Once in college, Ukyou finally found what she was missing in the form of a young man with short blonde hair. Shinji was not a martial artist by any stretch of the term, limiting his athletics to track and volleyball, but something drew Ukyou to him. Perhaps it was his cheerful attitude or his acumen for their mutual course of study, business. Regardless of the cause, Shinji helped Ukyou to return to the land of the living, and after only a month of knowing each other, Shinji asked her out.
Two months later, after a sweep-you-off-your-feet courtship, Shinji proposed, and Ukyou happily accepted. Weddings being associated with pain in the brown-haired chef and her friends, the couple eloped, and when they returned from their impromptu honeymoon, Ukyou found out that she was pregnant. Nine short months later, the former Kuonji and her husband had a beautiful baby girl, with her father's blonde hair and her elfin features.
Seeing that Ukyou had nearly arrived at her restaurant, the brown-haired chef fished in her purse for the key to the building, quickly finding it and unlocking the door. Stepping inside, she started the grill and moved the already-chopped ingredients in the back refrigerator up to the line in preparation for opening. Finally, the okonomiyaki proprietor picked up her shop sign, intending to set it above the door to announce to the world that Ucchan's was open for another day of brisk business.
Opening the door, Ukyou was just about to place the curtain on its holder when a brief glimpse of red out of the corner of her eye drew her attention, and there, walking toward her, was a vision that could not be real. Eyes widening and mouth dropping open soundlessly, Ukyou tried to wrap her mind around what she was seeing, but the unfortunate woman was unable, and the darkness of unconsciousness claimed her in a dead faint.
Seeing the strange woman faint, Ranma rushed forward to catch her, Akane at his side. Looking into her face, the pigtailed martial artist was struck at her astounding resemblance to Ukyou: all he would have to do is cut out a couple of decades of age, and she would look just like his best friend and new sister.
"Who is she, Ranma?" asked Akane, breaking into his thoughts, and he looked up at his wife, blankly shaking his head. "She looks so much like Ukyou," the raven-haired girl continued, "Could she be her mother?"
"I dunno Akane," answered Ranma, still cradling the woman in his arms. "Ucchan never talked about her mother, and I figured she was dead. 'Course, I thought my mom was dead for a long time, too, so it's possible."
Shrugging, Akane suggested, "Well, why don't we ask Ukyou herself?"
Nodding in agreement to her suggestion, Ranma lifted the woman into his arms and carried her into the restaurant, calling out, "Hey Ucchan, you around?"
Not surprisingly, for the early hour, the restaurant was vacant of customers, but the fact that neither Ukyou nor Konatsu was in the main eating area was strange. Akane, walking past her husband, ducked into the kitchen, and a moment later, she said, "There's no one here."
"Maybe Ucchan overslept," Ranma mused, heading for the stairs. "At least we can let this lady rest on one of the futons upstairs after we wake her up."
Ranma heard his raven-haired bride fall into step behind him, and the pigtailed martial artist climbed the stairs with his usual efficiency, using a toe to knock on Ukyou's bedroom door once he arrived. "Hey Ucchan!" he shouted. "You awake?"
Feeling someone slug him on the arm, Ranma shot Akane a hurt look, but she just fiercely whispered, "That's no way to wake someone up!"
After grumbling about how she had woken him up that was lotsa times, Ranma retorted, "Okay, you wake her up."
Tapping lightly on the door, Akane said, "Ukyou, are you up?" Receiving no response, she repeated said action, and after once again being greeted by silence, Akane called out, "I'm coming in."
Ranma waited patiently as the former Tendo opened the door, but he was startled to hear her gasp. Looking over Akane's shoulder, the heir to the Saotome Ryu echoed his wife's action. What had once been Ukyou's cramped bedroom was now, obviously, a storeroom, packed full of supplies for the restaurant below. The couple had come here seeking answers about what they had found at their home, but it seemed that they were only going to find more mysteries.
Sighing, Ranma asked, "Could you check Konatsu's room, Akane? We at least need to find a blanket or futon for her."
Nodding, Akane went to the door of the original storeroom in Ucchan's, which the chef had converted into Konatsu's bedroom. Unsurprisingly, Ranma could see that the room had also returned to its original function as a storage area, but thankfully, there were several stacked futons on one shelf, of which Akane quickly snagged one. After Akane returned and unfolded the thick sleeping mat on the hallway floor, Ranma knelt down and placed the unconscious woman on the soft surface, doing his best to make her comfortable.
After the couple had quietly walked back down into the restaurant proper, Akane said, "Well, I guess we aren't going to get any answers here, for now. Do you want to try over at the Nekohanten?"
"Well, shouldn't we stay here?" inquired Ranma. "I mean, we can't just leave an unconscious woman lying upstairs, and to be honest, something bad musta happened if Ucchan isn't here to open the restaurant."
"Something bad as in 'My family vanished' kind of bad?" answered a sarcastic Akane. "We need to figure out what's going on, Ranma!"
Worried over his new sister, Ranma replied, "C'mon, 'Kane. Let's at least wait until that lady wakes up. Besides, working the restaurant might help us relax a little. I mean, we've both been really stressed after what we found back home."
Sighing, Akane dubiously replied, "Alright, Ranma." A moment later, Ranma saw a mischievous look appear on his bride's face, and the girl ducked into the kitchen. A few seconds later, Akane returned holding a glass of water, and without waiting for him to speak, she had drenched her husband, now wife.
"Wadja do that for?" asked the disgruntled redhead, reflexively squeezing the excess water from her shirt.
Smiling, Akane replied, "Well, Ucchan's need a cute girl to cook, and we both know that my cooking isn't up to par."
Remembering how she had eventually convinced Akane that her cooking wasn't up to snuff, Ranma was more inclined to relief than anger at her wife's actions. "You got a point, 'Kane."
After that, Ranma went into the back to change into one of Ukyou's spare okonomiyaki-seller's garb, complete with spatula bandolier and a spare battle spatula, and about five minutes later, Ucchan's opened with its temporary chef and waitress.
Nabiki arrived at the Nekohanten early, almost before it had opened, her driver letting her off three blocks away from the restaurant. It wasn't for her benefit that she had a relaxing walk; Cologne had made it clear that publicity was the last thing the Joketsuzoku wanted in Japan, and the most powerful businesswoman in Tokyo patronizing a small Chinese restaurant in Nerima would occasion such notoriety. That was also why Nabiki was dressed in an unassuming black woman's business suit with an old-fashioned hat and veil, disguising her features and her age.
Upon entering the restaurant, Nabiki quickly scanned the interior, noting that at the early hour, only the two waitresses, teenage Joketsuzoku girls whose names escaped her at the moment. If she recalled correctly, the ruling council would send Cologne a different set of girls every year to learn under her and work in the Nekohanten, but Nabiki didn't often go to the establishment in person any more, preferring to speak to the aged woman over the phone. Her time was rather limited, running a multinational corporation.
Nodding to the two waitresses, Nabiki made her way across the main dining area and entered the kitchen, smiling as she caught sight of Cologne herself overseeing another young Joketsuzoku, this one male, who was currently cooking a batch of ramen. Waiting patiently, as she knew Cologne was already aware of her presence, Nabiki leaned against the doorjamb, affecting a bored, superior expression she knew infuriated her competitors.
After another three minutes of waiting, the Matriarch of the Joketsuzoku amazons finally turned away from her work, greeting Nabiki politely. After replying in kind, Nabiki asked, "If you don't mind, Elder, might we talk somewhere a bit more private?"
Cologne nodded assent, and gesturing for the Tendo daughter to follow, the wizened old woman led Nabiki upstairs to her study. Once there, in a kind voice, Cologne asked, "What had you so troubled last night, child?"
Sighing, Nabiki slowly answered, "Well, as I told you, I dreamed again. The strange part is that the dream ended differently than any other time since they vanished."
Cologne was obviously interested, her eyebrows rising. Prompting the businesswoman to continue, the amazon elder listened raptly.
"It started just the same, with me seeing Akane and Ranma off at the airport," continued Nabiki, her voice showing the barest inkling of the pain she still bore due to the duo's disappearance. "And like always, I was completely unable to stop them. This, just like every other time, the scene shifted to when they arrived back at Narita."
Nabiki took a deep breath before finishing her recollection, hoping that Cologne would tell her that it had some meaning. "When the ripple hit them, nothing happened at all. They were still there, and before the dream ended, Ranma and imoutochan ran off toward the train station."
As she spoke, Cologne had been filling her pipe, but when she mentioned them NOT vanishing with the ripple, the elder paused, looking up. "Nabiki, do you think that there has been some change?"
"I don't know what to think, honored elder," answered the brown-haired woman, still feeling her shaken heart trying, in vain, to penetrate her cool exterior. "That's why I came to you."
Cologne finished filling her pipe and lit it with a spark of ki before answering, her response coming from her mouth with the blue-grey smoke of her first puff. "Let's not be overly optimistic here, child. They have been gone nearly two decades."
"I realize that, elder," Nabiki replied in an even tone. "That doesn't mean that they couldn't have returned."
"Hmm," said Cologne, her tone thoughtful. "Well, if they have returned, where would they go?"
"The most likely place would be the Dojo," answered a confident Nabiki. "After all, their plans were to fly in early so that they could eat breakfast with the family."
"If this hypothetical situation is true," discussed Cologne, "then where have the erstwhile children been?"
"I don't know. I've told you everything I've seen in my dreams."
Obviously coming to a decision, Cologne tapped out her pipe into a wooden bowl she maintained for that purpose, crushing the embers out with a small stick. "Alright, then," she said resolutely. "If your sister and my student have returned, then their most likely first destination would be the Dojo, yes?" After seeing Nabiki nod, she continued, "Then why don't we put hypothetical situations behind us and take a look at the facts. I can leave Blush in charge of the store while we go take a look."
Nodding gratefully, Nabiki followed Cologne back down stairs, where the Joketsuzoku elder instructed one of the waitresses, obviously Blush, to watch over the shop until her return. With that, the two women exited the Nekohanten, heading for the Tendo Dojo.
It took very little time to reach said dojo, as Cologne had set up her restaurant only five blocks from Nabiki's childhood home, and when they arrived, Nabiki cursed, seeing the lock on the gate. "Ever since Daddy moved in with the Saotomes, Kasumi and I haven't come by much. The lock is rusted shut."
"Don't worry, child," replied Cologne, good-naturedly putting an arm around Nabiki under her arms. "This old gal still has plenty spring left in her step."
With that, Cologne, holding a startled Nabiki, leapt to the top of the three-meter-tall dojo wall and then down on the other side. Gasping for breath from the surprise, Nabiki shouted, "Warn me before you do something like that!"
Cologne cackled at her distress, obviously enjoying Nabiki's annoyance. With a huff, the Tendo daughter turned from her aged companion, deciding that it was a better use of her time to investigate the house. Picking her way through the untended garden, Nabiki made her way to the tearoom, but the sight before her caused her to stop short.
"Cologne!" she called, eyes wide at the state of the room. "Someone HAS been here!"
In a flash, the Joketsuzoku elder was at her side, staring at what had caused her shout: all over the tea room were footprints in the dust. "I'm certain that no one has been here in eight months," said Nabiki, feeling hope rising in her breast. "That was when Kasumi said she stopped coming to tend the house."
"Now, now, Nabiki," replied Cologne in a cautionary voice. "We can't be sure it was them. Maybe some teenagers broke in, seeing as this is an abandoned house, or maybe it was a thief."
"Alright, let's see where the footprints lead," answered Nabiki, already believing that her sister and brother-in-law had returned from where ever they had gone. Between her dream and these footprints, hope was truly alive in the normally cynical businesswoman.
After following the footprints throughout the house, first to the family shrine and then to each of the bedrooms, Cologne asked, "Well, assuming it was them, where would they go after discovering the dojo in this condition?"
"I'm sure they would either go to the Nekohanten or Ucchan's," Nabiki answered confidently. If she remembered anything of missing duo, they would try to go to their friends first.
"Well, since they haven't shown up at my doorstep yet, then shall we go pay Ukyou a visit?"
Nabiki nodded in reply, walking out of the house. She would have walked straight there, if not for an immobile door and a sarcastic Cologne asking her if she wanted a lift out of the garden.
Ukyou blinked awake, wondering what she had eaten the night before to give her such a strange dream. Maybe it was time to stop making her special okonomiyaki as a midnight snack. Unfortunately for her, she soon realized where she was.
'Why am I sleeping on an old futon in my restaurant?' the chef thought, suddenly ill at ease. Worried strange hallucinations, and some old acquaintances that might have caused them, Ukyou stood, and walking to the storeroom that had once been her bedroom, she rummaged around for her spare battle spatula and bandolier, kept her for emergencies.
After about five minutes later and armed as she hadn't been since about a year after Ranma and Akane disappeared, Ukyou crept down the stairs toward the main dining area of Ucchan's. After traversing about half of the stairs, the noise of people eating reached her ears, and Ukyou raised an eyebrow. 'Who is running the restaurant if I've been up here asleep?' she thought warily.
Being extra-careful not to make any noise, the restaurateur finally made her way to the curtain that hid the stair from customers and cautiously peeked beyond it. In the restaurant proper, several tables of breakfast and early lunch patrons sat, some eating okonomiyaki and other items on the menu. Ukyou puzzled over this strange turn of events for a moment until a waitress with short, blue-black hair stepped into view carrying a tray laden with okonomiyaki, and the chef felt her heartbeat quicken.
'What if what I saw this morning wasn't a hallucination?' she pondered silently. 'But, that would mean—'
Her thoughts cut off abruptly as the waitress turned, beginning to serve the table, and Ukyou couldn't take it anymore. Bursting from her hiding place, and noting a female Ranma, in one of her okonomiyaki chef's outfits, cooking behind the counter, the owner of Ucchan's brandished her battle spatula, yelling out, "Who the hell are you two, 'cause you can't be who you look like!"
Stepping lightly off of the train, a sixteen-year-old girl walked through the train station, intent on surprising her mother. Normally, the blonde would barely see her mother on Sundays, since she would go to church with her father, but today, since her father was out of town on business, she wanted to do something extra-special for her mother. Helping out at her mother's restaurant and then buying them both lunch seemed like a great way to do it, though she still didn't know why her mother's restaurant was so far from their home.
Humming a happy tune, the girl practically skipped down the street, looking forward to the day ahead, and she quickly navigated the streets to her mother's place of business. Unfortunately, there appeared to be some sort of ruckus going on inside.
"Who the hell are you two," yelled her mother, "'cause you can't be who you look like!"
There was her mother, armed to the teeth with the weapons she had never successfully taught the girl to use, facing off against two teenage girls probably only a little older than her. Suddenly, before she could further study the odd tableau inside, a familiar voice spoke behind her.
"What is going on here, Minako?"
Turning, said girl answered, "I don't know, Auntie Nabiki, but Mom looks awfully mad about something.
Cliffhangers; gotta love 'em. Since this is the first new chapter to this fic in many years, I am pleased to announce its official rebirth under the new title. By the way, even if you still remember the prologue and first chapter to Disappearance, enough has changed in its reincarnation as Shadows of Time for me to strongly advise you to go back and reread those two postings.
I hope everyone enjoys this one, and I hope the new plot keeps me writing on it. The muse is fickle, after all. Later, minna.